Eight southwestern Pennsylvania school districts have joined forces with the Pittsburgh-based Consortium for Public Education to launch a new effort aimed at personalizing middle and high school education. The focal point is an on-line tool that helps students imagine their future and identify a career path.
“We want every student to graduate pretty darn excited about where they are going to go,” said Consortium Executive Director Linda Croushmore, “waking up the morning after graduation knowing what they are going to do, not wondering what they are going to do.”
The tool allows each student to set up a profile and then begin writing about their interests, activities and goals in four different categories.
“Middle school kids, we just want them dreaming and grasping ideas. But high school kids, we hope that over the course of 9, 10, 11, 12 they become much more specific about where they want to go,” said Consortium for Public Education Director of Initiatives Mary Kay Babyak.
The districts are all rolling out the tool slowly, most are starting in the 6th or 7th grade with plans to add a grade level every year.
Everything the students write will be open for review by their teachers. Croushore said she hopes the teachers will then begin to find ways to not only encourage the students goals, but to also find ways to relate course materials to the students’ ambitions and to help properly focus their dreams.
“Some don’t have dreams, some have dreams that they don’t have the plans yet to accomplish and achieve, some have very unrealistic dreams,” said Babyak. She said the dreams and goals are not fully formed because teachers have not worked to refine them.
Parents will also have access to the writings.
Each District is finding ways to open time for the students to work on the materials. Some have made the work part of English class, others have handed it over to guidance staff and still others, like the Clairton School District, carve out a special period every few weeks to allow students to focus on the eMAPS (My Action Plan for Success) web interface. All the district are hoping the students, and their parents, will take advantage of the web interface outside of the school day.
Taking part in the eMAP program is Chartiers Valley, Clairton City, Greensburg Salem, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport Area, Pittsburgh Public, Sharon City, and Albert Gallatin Area School Districts